A goal from Ryan Jones in the 68? minute gave the home side the lead before Panagiotis Nikas scored a sharp equaliser 10? minutes later to ensure both sides collected a point.
However, it was man-of-the-match Hamish McLean ? recalled to the starting line-up after being dropped by Scott Baillie last weekend – who drew gasps of astonishment from the 240-strong crowd, as the goalkeeper produced three point-blank saves in the final few minutes to preserve a point for the Berries.
In a crucial encounter between two struggling sides, an indifferent opening to the match by the Berries saw Penrith pressing for an early goal in the first few minutes.
It was after only 10? minutes however that the Berries fashioned their first opportunity, as Sash Tirovski skipped past NSL-Championship winning defender Ante Juric before squaring the ball across the face of goal. Striker John Tsironis tried to roll the ball past Penrith goalkeeper Chad Taylor but the custodian produced a superb instinct save.
It would have been the perfect start for new Berries coach Ramsin Shamon, who took charge of the West Sydney side for the first time following the departure of Scott Baillie from the club after the Berries? loss at home against Macarthur last weekend.
Only 4? minutes later and the lively Panagiotis Nikas almost gave Penrith the lead. Collecting the ball just outside the penalty-area, the Nepean youngster showed excellent control to dribble around the lunging Sobczyk before slipping the ball under the body of the on-rushing McLean, only to see his effort roll agonisingly past the post.
The Penrith side were clearly out to salvage some lost pride after last weekend?s humiliation at the hands of the Sutherland Sharks, where they were beaten 7-0. Abbas Saad?s side produced an attacking first-half display which saw them pressing high up the park, playing a neat passing game and monopolising possession.
On the stroke of half-time United almost took the lead, as Ante Juric?s free-kick from outside the box was curled expertly over the wall, only to be palmed acrobatically away for a corner by Berries goalkeeper Hamish McLean.
After a fairly tepid first-half, it was perhaps the deterioration of pitch conditions during the second 45? minutes which allowed the game to open up, as both sides allowed mistakes to creep into their play.
The increasingly wet surface had nothing to do with the quality of Jason Browne?s driven free-kick only 8? minutes after the break however.
From around five-metres outside of the penalty area, Browne saw his thumped shot swerve agonisingly away from McLean?s left-hand post at the last moment, to the relief of the home crowd.
The Berries were unlucky not to be leading only 3? minutes later though, as Lagoudakis? low strike from outside the box was palmed away by Chad Taylor, only for Ryan Jones to blast over his follow-up shot under pressure.
The hard-working Berries midfielder made no mistake in the 68? minute, though. Jones produced a brilliant run with the ball from midfield before delicately slipping Josh Sama into the box.
The substitute?s shot was blocked brilliantly by Taylor but the rebound was sharply side-footed into the back of the net by Jones to give the Berries a 1-0 lead.
A momentary lapse of concentration by the Berries defence ten minutes later saw the Penrith side opportunistically snatch an equaliser. A lofted ball into the Berries box was headed backwards by centre-back Angelo Petratos.
The West Sydney defence inexplicably remained static as Panagiotis Nikas prodded home on the volley from a few metres out to make it 1-1 in the 78? minute.
In the 87? minute, the effervescent Kosta Lagoudakis almost produced a superb winner for the West Sydney side.
Substitute Nicolo Sama laid the ball off to the midfielder, whose first time shot from outside the box flew just wide of the post off the inside of his right boot.
The next 3? minutes provided fans with one of the most superb goal-keeping displays of the season.
For his first save in the 88? minute, the Berries ?keeper Hamish McLean managed to tip away a deflect shot from atop his body after going to ground early.
Only a minute later and McLean saved sharply down to his right from point-blank range before having to tip a bullet header onto the crossbar from a near-post corner to deny the Penrith side a winning goal.
In a frantic last few minutes, the Berries still had time to create another chance for themselves, as Nicolo Sama saw his awkward shot from outside the box saved along a wet surface by the reliable Chad Taylor.
A jovial Penrith coach in Abbas Saad was quick to praise Hamish McLean for his supernatural display:
?Three points to the goalkeeper, he was brilliant, what more can you say?
?It was a great game, I thought both teams went at each other.
?You can see there?s a lack of confidence in-front of goal. We could have scored 5 goals in the last 10 minutes but their keeper made 3 magnificent saves.
?In the first-half we had our chances, even in the first 15? or 20? minutes but we couldn?t convert. It has been the story of our season but everybody had a go, I thought it was a good performance from our boys and hopefully we can get a couple of good players back again.?
After his first game in charge, Ramson Shamon similarly looked on the lighter side of an entertaining match that was played in extremely good spirits by both sides:
?We had one point at the start of the game and we kept it, which was pretty hard. It is pretty hard to do anything with the pitch today since the boys were falling over left, right and centre, so it was a bit hard to really allow the guys to express themselves but what can you do.
?I thought I had the win with about 10? minutes to go but we seemed to have copped one or two cheap goals throughout the season and this is another example of us not concentrating for the full 90 minutes.
?But, we need to take the positives out of it. The boys tried hard, played really well. They put it in for me today, they put it in for themselves and one point is a good start.?
?I?m undefeated as the new gaffer and I?ll take it that way! There?s a lot of positive vibes in their right now so everyone?s working hard for the next eight games, we?ve got United this week and I think we can ?do the dirty? on them.?
West Sydney Berries 1 (Ryan JONES 68?)
Penrith Nepean United 1 (Panagiotis NIKAS 78?)
Venue: Sydney Olympic Park Athletic Centre
Referee: Kurt Ams
Assistant Referees: David Christie, Dale Fuda
Fourth Official: Kevin Peddie
West Sydney Berries: 1. Hamish MCLEAN; 6. Jack SOBCZYK, 7. Scott THOMAS (21. David ABEL 83?), 8. Johnny FOTIADIS, 10. John TSIRONIS, 11. Aheleas KOTSOPOULOS, 15. Ryan JONES, 16. Kosta LAGOUDAKIS, 17. Sash TIROVSKI (9. Nicolo SAMA 57?), 19. Dimitri ZAKILAS (18. Josh SAMA 65?), 20. Angelo PETRATOS
Substitutes Not Used: 13. Neil PHILLIPOU, 69. Johnny FRANGESKOU
Yellow Cards: 10. John TSIRONIS 75?
Red Cards: Nil
Penrith-Nepean United: 1. Chad TAYLOR; 23. Devrim HUSEYIN, 7. Javier MANCINO (9. Carl McNAUGHTON 65?), 5. Luke BOYD, 16. Michael CROMAR, 13. Nathan RALPH, 17. Ozgur KANYILMAZ, 2. William STUART, 28. Ante JURIC, 14. Panagiotis NIKAS, 19. Jason BROWNE
Substitutes Not Used: 42, Daniel SCHWARZER, 4. Ryan O?SHEA, Tayfun BUYUKKOPRU, 15. Angelo MARTINO
Yellow Cards: 19. Jason BROWNE 53?, 17. Ozgur KANYILMAZ 73?
Red Cards: Nil
3 ? Hamish MCLEAN (WSB)
2 ? Chad TAYLOR (PNU)
1 ? Panagiotis NIKAS (PNU)
-By Chris Paraskevas